So What's the Deal With Your Career, Phil?

As some of you may know, I've been at my current job for just over a year. I've learned a lot of interesting new technology and worked with some really cool people.

However, I had to make a choice, and it was a tough one - I was forced to start looking for a new position. Today I started that search in earnest.

The problem is the economics of the bubble we live in. While my company pays well for the conditions that existed a year or two ago in silicon valley, they aren't at parity with the current environment. A couple months ago, I told a good friend of mine how much I was currently making. She immediately told me that my salary was below the current standard (and substantially so). She talks to a lot of people in our profession about salary so I trust her judgement.

After that discussion, I approached my boss and laid out the details: I had done solid work for the company for over a year, and I knew that I could get a substantial pay increase by moving to another company. I also know that I would get a decent signing bonus by moving to a new position.

I was completely honest with my manager. I told him I enjoy the work I do, and I would like to keep doing it at this company. As I said, I like the people I work with and it's generally a good work environment.

At the same time, I have some very serious expenses to deal with. Some of you have heard the details of how incredibly expensive my divorce has been. I'm running a monthly deficit, and I live frugally. I see two ways ultimately to get out of this position: make more money, or declare bankruptcy. Moving to a less expensive place isn't an option because of custody issues. I'm stuck where I am, living in the most expensive place in the US.

My manager knows about all this as I've been very open with him. I'm not trying to bluff my way to more pay. I'm not using the divorce as some sort of excuse. These are simply the facts: I am forced to maximize the amount of money I earn. If there's an opportunity for me to change jobs and make more, I have to take it.

Also, I really don't want to declare bankruptcy.

How Did That All Go?

As I said, I talked this all over with my manager a few weeks ago and just told him the truth that either I needed my company to find a way to pay me more, or I would have to start looking for a new job.

Today, I got the answer from my manager: my company will not increase my salary. I recognize that there are many factors involved in this. I'm not upset about it, although I am disappointed. I like the work I do and I want to keep doing it.

I told my manager the truth: I would keep working hard for the company (that's easy, because I like the work). At the same time, I was going to start interviewing at other companies, and if I could get a good position with a pay increase, I was going to take it.

He understood and it was a productive conversation. I feel fortunate that I've had managers that I can speak with honestly like that.

And Here I Am

So that's that: I'm going to keep working at my current job, but I'm looking for a new position too. I understand that my current company values my work at exactly the amount they are paying. I don't bear anyone any ill will. This is how a market economy works.

It's possible that I won't find a new job that pays more. However, that seems unlikely. I've already started talking to recruiters and I know my field is very hot right now. But hey, maybe I won't change jobs - and that's ok. I'll keep doing what I do now, and I'll keep finding interesting projects to work on.

But if I do get a good offer, I'm going to take it. As I said earlier, I really have no choice, financially. If I want to support my family and try to get out from under this mountain of debt, I have to maximize my earnings. That's all I can do.

What Do You Want To Do Now?

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my career these past few weeks. I've been doing this computer stuff for twenty years so I have some perspective (I hope). I think the best way for me to sum up my goals is this: I don't want to write Chef.

Let me explain - I don't have anything against Chef. I think it's a fine tool. What I mean is that I'm not looking for a position where I use industry-standard tools to I manage a well-established and automated environment. What I bring to a new position is an incredible diversity of experiences. I know Linux really, really, really well. I understand how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. I understand how to glue disparate systems into a cohesive whole. I understand computers at a very deep level. I'm not bragging, this is just the result of devoting most of my adult life to the subject.

Ultimately, I like solving corner cases and weird one-off problems. I enjoy the challenge of learning completely new and unusual environments. Here's a great example: I spent months at my current job automating Artifactory with NixOS. You know what? I made it work. I can spin you up a complete Artifactory server on NixOS in a few minutes. It's pretty awesome. It's also a weird corner case. NixOS is not very popular. There's not a lot of people out there who need to solve the same problem of running Artifactory on NixOS. But hey, I'm one of those people. I've learned an interesting skill. I got my first real exposure to functional programming and how you can reliably enforce the state of a system using it.

Maybe I'll never have a chance to use these particular skills again. That doesn't matter - what I've learned at this job just increases the richness of my knowledge of my profession.


So here I am at a crossroad. I'm going to take this time to talk to lots of other companies and explore what's out there. I've set some personal goals too. I want to learn two new languages: Clojure and Go. I want to release some version of my Artifactory NixOS deployment to the public. CoreOS and the wrole idea of containers is pretty interesting stuff I want to know more about. I want to keep learning and evolving. That's pretty much the coolest thing about being human, I think.

Reality Check

I want to finish this post by acknowledging the ridiculousness of my situation. I have it better than 99.999% of people who have ever lived. I don't have to ever worry where my next meal is coming from or whether my child will just drop dead from some random disease. I am incredibly grateful for what I have and I don't ever want to take it for granted. I am truly a very fortunate person.


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